Before heading out to the beach, I always reach for the same things: tanning oil, my big floppy hat and a good book.

This summer, I steered away from the typical teen-fiction romance I always seem to find myself digging my nose into. Instead, I  gave into all the hype I heard floating around and picked up “Looking for Alaska” by John Green. The plot may sound like a long road trip to find the nation’s 49th state, but in fact this compelling novel is about a boy who breaks out of his lifelong shell with the help of a young woman named Alaska. In Green’s first novel, he captures your attention and pulls on your heartstrings.

Aside from the demanding workload during academics, the hobbies of non-locals include smoking, drinking and pulling pranks to get a rise out of their Dean, who they call The Eagle. With a boyfriend in college, the beautiful and passionate Alaska is off limits for Miles, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t the center of his universe. Alaska gives Miles experiences of a lifetime, ones he will remember forever. The emotion portrayed by Alaska leaves Miles accepting life for what it is, but after an unexpected tragedy, Miles looks back to Alaska for a way out.

Miles Halter is heading into his junior year of high school attending a boarding school in rural Alabama. Misleading and lacking communication skills, Mile’s roommate, “The Colonel,” helps him out after a prank goes wrong. Miles soon realizes there is more to life than knowing the last words of famous people.

Green  drew me in from the very first sentence. He chose a very unorthodox way to write his book. Instead of labeling the chapters with numbers or months, Green opted for a different approach. He divided his chapters into days: 100 days before, 85 days before, etc. As a reader, you do not find out what Green is foreshadowing until the middle of the book. That idea in itself was enough to keep me reading, along with the language he uses throughout the novel. The language tells me this wasn’t meant to be read by children, but Green really does a fantastic job of making you feel like you’re one of the characters.

Looking for Alaska is inspiring and sad, but compelling enough for readers of all ages to really dig deep inside themselves and find out who they really are.  Grab your tissues folks, this one’s a tearjerker.

MacKenzie Clarke can be contacted at

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